Vanessa Redgrave

Born: 30 January 1937 (83 years old)
Gender: Female



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Vanessa Redgrave, CBE is an English actress and member of the Redgrave family, one of the enduring theatrical dynasties. She is also a social activist for human rights.

Ancestry and Family

Vanessa Redgrave was born in London, England to Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson (Lady Redgrave). Her siblings, Lynn Redgrave and the equally outspoken Corin Redgrave, are also acclaimed actors.

Redgrave's daughters, Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson (by her 1962-1967 marriage to film director Tony Richardson) have also built respected acting careers.

Redgrave's son Carlo Nero (né Carlo Sparanero), by her relationship with Italian actor Franco Nero (né Francesco Sparanero), is a writer and film director. She met Nero while filming Camelot in 1967.

During the late 1970s and 1980s she had a long-term relationship with actor Timothy Dalton.

Stage Career

Vanessa Redgrave entered the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1954. She first appeared in the West End theatre, playing opposite her father, in 1958.

Redgrave continues to work regularly in the theatre. In 2003 she won a Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Play" for her performance in the Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

In January 2006, Redgrave was presented the Ibsen Centennial Award for her "outstanding work in interpreting many of Henrik Ibsen's works over the last decades."

Previous recipients of the award include Liv Ullmann, Glenda Jackson, and Claire Bloom.

Redgrave played Joan Didion in Didion's upcoming New York stage adaptation of her book, The Year of Magical Thinking.

Film Career

Early film career

Highlights of Vanessa Redgrave's early film career include her first starring role in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (for which she earned an Oscar nomination, a Cannes award, a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA Film Award); her portrayal of the cool London swinger, Jane, in 1966's Blowup; her spirited portrayal of dancer Isadora Duncan in Isadora (for which she won a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, along with a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination in 1969); and various portrayals of historical figures - ranging from Andromache in The Trojan Women, to Mary of Scotland in Mary, Queen of Scots.

In 1977, Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary film on the plight of the Palestinian people. That same year she starred in the film Julia, about a woman murdered by the Nazi regime in the years prior to World War II for her anti-Fascist activism.

Her co-star in the film was Jane Fonda who, in her 2005 autobiography, noted that "there is a quality about Vanessa that makes me feel as if she resides in a netherworld of mystery that eludes the rest of us mortals. Her voice seems to come from some deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets.

"Watching her work is like seeing through layers of glass, each layer painted in mythic watercolor images, layer after layer, until it becomes dark - but even then you know you haven't come to the bottom of it ...

"The only other time I had experienced this with an actor was with Marlon Brando ... Like Vanessa, he always seemed to be in another reality, working off some secret, magnetic, inner rhythm."

Redgrave's performance in Julia garnered an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, chose to picket the awards ceremony in the spring of 1978 to protest against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause.

Aware of the JDL's presence outside, Redgrave, in her acceptance speech, denounced all forms of totalitarianism, noting neither she nor the Academy (who had received death threats if she won) would be intimidated by "a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature to Jews all over the world."

Her statement was greeted by both applause and boos from the audience.

Later in the broadcast, veteran screenwriter and Oscar presenter Paddy Chayefsky announced to the audience, "there's a little matter I'd like to tidy up ... at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say that I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda.

"I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation and a simple 'Thank you' would have sufficed."

He received thunderous applause.

In 1978 Rabbi Meir Kahane published a book entitled Listen Vanessa, I am a Zionist, which was later renamed Listen World, Listen Jew in direct response to Redgrave's comments at the Academy Awards.

To this day many right-wing Jewish groups, such as the JDL, consider Redgrave a supporter of terrorism. The JDL itself, however, has been described by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Congressional testimony as a "violent" and "extremist" group.

In a sidebar in its "Terrorism 2000/2001" report, the Bureau notes, "The Jewish Defense League has been deemed a right-wing terrorist group."

In June 2005 Redgrave was asked on Larry King Live: "Regardless of distinctions about policy, do you support Israel's right to exist?" "Yes, I do," she replied.

Later film career

Later film roles of note include those of suffragette Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians (1984, a fourth Best Actress Academy Award nomination), transsexual Renee Richards in Second Serve (1986); Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End (1992, her sixth Academy Award nomination, this time in a supporting role); crime boss Max in Mission: Impossible (1996); Oscar Wilde's mother in Wilde (1997); Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway (1997); and Dr. Wick in Girl, Interrupted (1999).

Many of these roles and others garnered various accolades for Redgrave.

Her performance as a lesbian grieving the loss of her longtime partner in the HBO series If These Walls Could Talk 2 earned her a Golden Globe for "Best TV Series Supporting Actress" in 2000.

This same performance also led to an "Excellence in Media Award" by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The award honours "a member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people".


Redgrave has appeared in the following feature films to date:

Behind the Mask (1958)
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Blowup (1966)
Red and Blue (1967)
The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967)
Camelot (1967)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
The Sea Gull (1968)
Isadora (1968)
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1969)
A Mother with Two Children Expecting Her Third (1970)
Drop-out (1970)
Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
The Devils (1971)
La Vacanza (1971)
The Trojan Women (1971)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Out of Season (1975)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Julia (1977)
Agatha (1979)
Yanks (1979)
Bear Island (1979)
Sing Sing (1983)
The Bostonians (1984)
Wetherby (1985)
Steaming (1985)
Comrades (1987)
Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
Consuming Passions (1988)
Pokhorony Stalina (1990) (as Vanessa Redgreiv)
Romeo-Juliet (1990) (voice)
Diceria dell'untore (1990)
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991)
Howards End (1992)
Un Muro de silencio (1993)
The House of the Spirits (1993)
Storia di una capinera (1993)
Mother's Boys (1994)
Little Odessa (1994)
A Month by the Lake (1995)
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997)
Wilde (1997)
Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
Déjà Vu (1997)
Deep Impact (1998)
Lulu on the Bridge (1998)
Cradle Will Rock (1999)
Uninvited (1999)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
The 3 Kings (2000)
Mirka (2000)
Children's Story, Chechnia (2000) (voice)
A Rumor of Angels (2000)
Die Erika und Klaus Mann Story (2000)
The Pledge (2001)
Crime and Punishment (2002)
Good Boy! (2003) (voice)
The Fever (2004)
The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005)
Short Order (2005)
The White Countess (2005)
The Thief Lord (2006)
Venus (2006)
The Riddle (2007)
How About You (2007)
Evening (2007)
Atonement (2007)
Cowboys for Christ (2006)

Television Career

Although Redgrave is known primarily as a film actress, she has appeared in a few television shows, made-for-TV movies and mini-series.

The only show she has had a main credited cast role in was the 1973 production of A Picture of Katherine Mansfield, in which she played Mansfield.

She had a recurring role in the second and third seasons of Nip/Tuck in 2004/5, as Dr. Erica Noughton, the mother of Julia McNamara (played by Joely Richardson, her real life daughter).

Redgrave had guest starring roles on Armchair Theatre, Love Story, Faerie Tale Theatre and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. She also appeared in the mini-series A Farewell To Arms, Wagner, and Peter The Great.

In addition, Redgrave has appeared in the following made-for-TV movies:

As You Like It (1963)
Playing for Time (1980)
My Body, My Child (1982)
Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985)
Second Serve (1986)
A Man for All Seasons (1988)
Orpheus Descending (1990)
Young Catherine (1991)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1991)
Great Moments in Aviation (1993)
They (1993)
Down Came a Blackbird (1995)
The Wind in the Willows (1995)
Two Mothers for Zachary (1996)
The Willows in Winter (1996)
Bella Mafia (1997)
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001)
The Gathering Storm (2002)
The Locket (2002)
Byron (2003)
The Shell Seekers (2006)

Political Activism

Since the 1960s Redgrave has supported a range of human rights causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, nuclear disarmament, independence for northern Ireland, freedom for Soviet Jews (she was awarded the Sakharov medal by Sakharov's widow, Yelena Bonner, in 1993 for her efforts), and aid for Bosnian Muslims and other victims of war.

She serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and was a co-founding member of Artists Against Racism.

Redgrave identifies as a socialist, but her opposition to Soviet oppression led her, early in her career, to join the anti-Stalinist Workers' Revolutionary Party (UK) (WRP), on whose ticket she twice ran for Parliament.

Redgrave's Trotskyist political views have been a cause of controversy for some, as has her membership in the WRP.

She remained loyal to WRP founder Gerry Healy when he was expelled from the WRP in the mid-1980s. She and other Healy loyalists founded the short-lived Marxist Party in the 1990s.

Since 2004 she has been a member of the Peace and Progress Party.

In 1980 Redgrave made her first American TV debut as concentration-camp survivor Fania Fénelon in the Arthur Miller-scripted TV movie Playing for Time – a part for which she won an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in 1981.

The decision to cast Redgrave as Fenelon was, however, a source of controversy for some Jewish individuals and organisations. In light of Redgrave's support for the Palestinian cause, even Fenelon objected to her casting.

Redgrave was perplexed by such hostility, stating in her 1991 autobiography her long-held belief that "the struggle against anti-Semitism and for the self-determination of the Palestinians form a single whole."

In December 2002 Redgrave paid £50,000 bail for Chechen separatist Deputy Premier and special envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who had sought political asylum in the United Kingdom and was accused by the Russian government of aiding and abetting hostage-takings in the Moscow Hostage Crisis of 2002 - in which 128 hostages lost their lives due to Russian special forces (OMON) action - and guerrilla warfare against Russia.

At a press conference Redgrave said she feared for the life of Zakayev if he were to be extradited to Russia on terrorism charges. He would "die of a heart attack" or some other mysterious explanation which would be offered by Russia, she said.

On 13 November 2003, a London court rejected the Russian government's request for Zakayev's extradition. Instead, the court accepted a plea by lawyers for Mr Zakayev that he would not get a fair trial - and could even face torture - in Russia.

"It would be unjust and oppressive to return Mr Zakayev to Russia," Judge Timothy Workman ruled.

In 2004, Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin Redgrave announced the launch of the Peace and Progress Party which would campaign against the Iraq War and for human rights.

Redgrave has been an outspoken critic of the "War on Terror" - the US and British governments' response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

During a June 2005 interview on Larry King Live, Redgrave was challenged on this criticism and on her "far left" political views. In response she questioned if there can be true democracy if the political leadership of the United States and Britain doesn't "uphold the values for which my father's generation fought the Nazis, [and] millions of people gave their lives against the Soviet Union's regime.

"[Such sacrifice was made] because of democracy and what democracy meant: no torture, no camps, no detention forever or without trial...[Such] techniques are not just alleged [against the governments of the U.S. and Britain], they have actually been written about by the FBI.

"I don't think it's being 'far left' uphold the rule of law."

In March 2006, Redgrave remarked in an interview with US broadcast journalist Amy Goodman, that "I don't know of a single government that actually abides by international human rights law, not one, including my own. In fact, [they] violate these laws in the most despicable and obscene way, I would say."

Goodman's interview of Redgrave took place in the actress's West London home on the evening of 7 March, and covered a range of subjects – though in particular, the cancellation of the Alan Rickman production, My Name is Rachel Corrie, by the New York Theater Workshop.

Such a development, said Redgrave, was an "act of catastrophic cowardice" as "the essence of life and the essence of theater is to communicate about lives, either lives that have ended or lives that are still alive, [and about] beliefs, and what is in those beliefs."

In June 2006 she was awarded a 'lifetime achievement' award from the International Transylvanian Film Festival, one of whose sponsors is a mining company named Gabriel Resources.

She dedicated the award to a community organisation from Rosia Montana, Romania, which is campaigning against a gold mine that Gabriel Resources are seeking to build near the village.

Gabriel Resources placed an 'open letter' in The Guardian on 23 June 2006, attacking Redgrave, arguing the case for the mine, and exhibiting support for it among the inhabitants: the open letter is signed by 77 villagers.

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